Superior Police Department swears in first black officer
Superior Police Chief Nicholas Alexander had his eye on developing a more diverse police force before he ever sat in the chief's chair. Thursday, a step toward that goal was made when the department's first black officer, Ronald Robinson of Super...
Superior Police Chief Nicholas Alexander had his eye on developing a more diverse police force before he ever sat in the chief's chair. Thursday, a step toward that goal was made when the department's first black officer, Ronald Robinson of Superior, was sworn in.
Although the department has four female officers - that number has been as high as six in the past - and Alexander himself is of Greek, Mediterranean descent, this marks the first time an African American has worn the Superior Police Department badge.
"Since day one, I talked about it during my application process," Alexander said. "(It) really was something I thought would happen sooner. Part of me is disappointed it's taken this long to come to the opportunity. It wasn't without effort."
A lot of work goes into recruiting, he said, but the area is predominantly white. For the chief and members of the Police and Fire Commission, diversity is a key issue.
"We want the police and fire departments to look like the community they serve," said commissioner Bonny Copenhaver.
In December, 130 candidates applied to become officers. Of those, 106 took the entry level test in January and 101 passed it.
Those with the top 50 scores were tapped for oral interviews with a three-member panel consisting of a police department manager, a police department officer and a member of the Police and Fire Commission.
"All 50 were interviewed in one day," Alexander said.
The commission certified the top 16. When it's time to hire a new officer, Alexander can pick from the top five names on that list. He doesn't see the rest, but the ultimate hiring decision rests on his shoulders.
Robinson was one of four new officers sworn in Thursday. Russ Milroy of Superior, who is already a certified law enforcement officer, will begin the department's field training program Sunday. Robinson, Charles Mahlen of Danbury and Patrick Denigan of Duluth will attend the Wisconsin Basic Recruit Academy in Eau Claire beginning Monday.
To date, Alexander has hired 13 new officers. Up to six more hires are expected in the next two years, leading to a lot of opportunity.
"When I was hired as chief, I was naïve," he said. "I thought it would be easy to get diverse applicants."
He continues to focus on outreach to the University of Wisconsin-Superior, including a close connection with the Black Student Union. Eleven of the chief's 13 hires were UWS students.
"I believe ultimately in building relationships with diverse groups," Alexander said. "Hey, we're people just like everybody else; we're fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters and parents and, yeah, we do go to work and wear a uniform, but don't let that be the sole way of defining us."